Thursday, June 15, 2006

What happens When FMLA Runs OUt?

Frank: My FMLA will run out soon and my doctor will not clear me to return to work before it expires. Does my boss have the right to fill my position if I'm going to be off work for a week or so after my FMLA expires?

Unfortunately, yes, she does. The FMLA allows employees to be off work with a serious medical condition for up to 12 weeks a year. After 12 weeks the employer has no further legal obligation to retain an employee under federal law.

The Union contract guarantees the rights found in the FMLA but does not confer additional return to work rights unless the employee has in excess of 12 weeks of sick leave or vacation and could continue on paid leave for longer than 12 weeks (another good reason to save up your sick leave!)

OHSU will send employees notice when their FMLA is about to run out and you should read these notices closely.

If your FMLA is about to expire you may apply for Extended Medical Leave with OHSU. Extended Medical Leave exists by OHSU policy and it provides that an employee will be placed on the preferred hire list when the employee is cleared to return to work by their medical provider.

While it doesn't guarantee an immediate return to work or placement in your old job, it does guarantee the right to return to a job in your old classification somewhere within OHSU for up to one year after the expiration of your FMLA when a vacancy occurs.

If you do not read the notices from OHSU that come in the mail and act affirmatively to safeguard your return to work rights, you may lose them.

The FMLA is an important law which provides significant protection but not unlimited protection. At some point, even though your medical condition is no fault of yours, the employer will have the right to sever the employment relationship if you can't work.

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